By Alex O’Sullivan-Pierce
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The atmosphere is something like a Turkish bazaar –alluring and bustling, with an air of mystery. Murmurs of never-before-seen wealth and fortune permeate the crowded room where the eager voices exchange guarded descriptions of their treasured goods. But this is not Istanbul, and the coveted wares are neither spices, silks nor gold. This is Brooklyn and the humming marketplace is one of skills and ideas. It’s the Brooklyn Tech Meetup: a gathering of innovators and entrepreneurs all working, plotting, hoping to be a part of the next big thing in technology and business.
On Dec. 4, Brooklyn Law School’s BLIP Clinic hosted the Brooklyn Tech Meetup at the Forchelli Conference Center in Feil Hall. The event boasted a strong showing of the tech scene’s usual suspects and attracted a few newcomers to the lively evening of pitches, demos and networking. Sprinkled amongst the crowd of nearly 200 programmers, founders, and investors were law students, attorneys and professors – a surprisingly large turnout form legal community. Well, perhaps the infusion of legal folk into tech startup mix is not so surprising given the event’s venue and the host.
Professor Jonathan Askin, founder of the Brooklyn Law Incubator and Policy Clinic (BLIP), and his team of student “BLIPicians” have been a ubiquitous presence in New York’s tech scene for years, providing free legal support to startups around the city. Recently, BLIP has started hosting events like the Brooklyn Tech Meetup with the aim of assisting more businesses on this side of the bridge. The plan is to make the Brooklyn Law School the permanent home for the monthly Brooklyn Tech Meetup.
On the symbiotic nature of the partnership, Professor Askin remarked, “I'm confident this monthly event will emerge as Brooklyn's preeminent hub for Brooklyn-based techies, innovators, entrepreneurs and their service supporters, and will help build a more robust community and ecosystem for Brooklyn-based startups. I'm also hopeful that the Brooklyn entrepreneurial community will further recognize the value of Brooklyn's own law school as essential to the sustainability and growth of Brooklyn as epicenter for innovation and entrepreneurial thought-leadership.”
Jason Jacobs, cofounder of the Brooklyn Tech Meetup, was equally as enthusiastic about teaming up with BLIP and the law school. “Our recent partnership with The Brooklyn Law School and BLIP has given us a new home and the tools we need to expand,” said Jacobs. “We have no doubt that with their support, as well as the support of everyone involved in the startup community, this endeavor will turn into something amazing."
This installment of the meetup featured pitches from two startup companies and a talk from Charlie O’Donnell of Brooklyn Bridge Ventures. Spun demonstrated their iPhone app that is a constantly updated guide for food, fashion, and music in a specific city. Aggregift, the second startup to present, showed the crowd how their web-based product enables users to pool money together to “crowdfund” gifts for friends.
Venture capitalist Charlie O’Donnell capped off the night by speaking to the attentive audience. He advised the entrepreneurs in the house to think big as he explained that funds like his aren’t looking for a million dollar idea, but rather are looking for a ten to fifteen million dollar idea in order to make it worth their investment. As for garnering attention and possibly dollars from busy investors like O’Donnell, he advised people to be persistent and resend emails if investors do not respond right away.
In case there was any doubt about what a venture capitalist does of a living, O’Donnell explained, “I give away money next to my email address. So I get a lot of emails.” At which point everyone in the room chuckled and thought, “How can I get that job?”
Alex O’Sullivan-Pierce is a third-year student at Brooklyn Law School and a member of the BLIP Clinic, providing pro bono legal support to local startups.